Game Changing Play of the Week: Strange Fourth and One Call Costs Packers Late Scoring Opportunity

With so many plays that contributed to a loss, it's hard to pick just one that changed the game.

Well, at least the Packers actually showed up to play for this loss?

There are about a million different things that went wrong in the second half of Sunday's game, and those have already been discussed ad nauseum on this site (and will be for the rest of the week). I understand the inclination to say Marquez Valdes-Scantling's overtime fumble was the backbreaker or the game-changing play, but much like a certain NFC Championship game of some years back, you could point to any number of different plays that occurred in the second half and say "this one really hurt the most."

For me, I was torn between the Darrius Shepherd rumble at the beginning of the fourth quarter and the moment I ultimately chose, that failed fourth-and-one conversion with three minutes left in regulation with the Packers down by 3.

Let's take a look.

The play

I was really convinced that after this failed fourth-down conversion, the game was over. It took a series of colossal mistakes and penalties by the Colts for the Packers to be able to get the ball back with enough time to set up the game-tying field goal that prompted overtime.

The Packers had finally managed a sustained drive, and got down to about the 34 yard line of the Colts. Keep in mind, this is well within Mason Crosby's range. You have to like your odds with a 51-yard field goal.

In this circumstance, I'll never question the decision to go for it. However, the play call was certainly an... unusual choice, as has so often been the case on fourth and one shots for Matt LaFleur.

The obvious choices here are always to either run a dive play or a quarterback sneak. The Packers chose instead to put the ball in the air.

Sometimes simple is your best option. Personally I think if you're going to try to get less than a yard, you just pound the ball. 

That being said, I understand the desire to keep it in your MVP quarterback's hands. If you're going to do that, though, you need to go with what's been working on offense for you in the game so far; bootleg plays that take advantage of the defense's aggressiveness, and spreading the ball out and hitting your timing routes to your reliable chain-movers.

The Packers kept it in tight to try to trick the Colts into thinking they were going to run, with only Davante Adams split out wide. They brought in Jamaal Williams into the backfield, the guy they'd normally run with in this sort of situation. Tonyan runs in motion to the left side and puts his hand down in the dirt, meaning you've got three tight ends plus five linemen all with their fists in the ground. Only Tonyan, Adams and Williams go out, which means the Packers are going into a heavy protect mode and really hoping the Colts sell out on the run. 

Unfortunately, the Colts were ready for it. Adams is well covered, Tonyan is double dovered, and the Colts notice Williams coming out of the flat almost immediately, giving Rodgers nowhere to go with the ball but a hopeful float over Williams' head that lands well out of reach.

 

I like the move to go for it in this spot, but you've got to scheme up something better than that if you decide you're going to put the ball in the air. Had the Packers managed the first down here, they're likely able to make this the final drive of regulation, or at least eat away at the Colts' timeouts and give them a short and very difficult attempt at a game-winning drive after this. 

There are many plays that "lost the game" on Sunday, and for me this is one of them that sticks out the most, moreso, frankly, than the MVS fumble, which was more of the last straw on top of a massive pile of miscues. 

The good news is that this is the kind of loss you can come back from if you're the Packers. You put up 31 points on the road against the best defense in football despite committing four turnovers. Take even one of those turnovers away and the Packers likely win this game, and the conversations we're having today look very different.

How the Packers respond this coming Sunday night against the Bears at Lambeau Field will be very telling.

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

6 points

Comments (42)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Bearmeat's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:38 am

Green Bay should have won this game. They were the better team all day, with the one exception that the defense can't stop a nosebleed on the ground and plays wayyyy too passively. Lazard clearly wasn't 100%, nor was Adams. MVS was a hero most of the game.

We were due some fumbles, frankly. And they cost us the game. We were on a historic giveaway (or lack thereof) pace until yesterday. That we lost all three was just bad luck.

Is this a Super Bowl team? Right now? No. But if some things drop right health wise? Yeah. It could be.

Basically, we could lose to any playoff team, or we could beat any playoff team. This team has more talent than the 2019 team. But it's not as consistent.

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iciice's picture

November 23, 2020 at 04:26 pm

I agree we can play with anyone, but it has to be mistake free football on the offensive side to make up for the defense's shortcomings. So, "clearly the better team"? Not even close. The Colts made adjustments on both sides of the ball after halftime. They mostly stuffed our offense and went on long, dominant stretches themselves where they held the ball and scored while keeping our offense off of the field. That's the mark of a better team. Hopefully we can learn and improve so by playoff time when we get a lead against a team like the Colts we can keep it.

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jlc1's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:46 am

A defense that plays the other team to almost a tie despite their offense and special teams giving the ball away 4 times did a pretty good job all things considered. That's not to say it does not have some basic problems but on this day the loss was not on them.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 25, 2020 at 01:05 pm

How many dropped picks?

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jlc1's picture

November 24, 2020 at 10:02 am

None that I recall.

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TarynsEyes's picture

November 23, 2020 at 05:15 pm

When exactly did Adams not look right? Was it after he made the down the sideline catch on the opening play or because the Packers blew it?

Lazard, if you can't give it all to help the team on the field, then don't go on the field and hurt them.

Heroes become goats and vice-versa in a split second. Get use to MVS doing such often.

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CoachDino's picture

November 23, 2020 at 05:33 pm

It's not a matter of AL Giving it his all / Being 100%. 90% of the players probably are playing at less than 100%.

The point is can he help the team - He did if not in blocking alone. I agree his play wasn't to his standards (from the little I saw) but you are going to have rust on top of any lingering injury issue. I hope the same can be said of EQS. I still think he can be an effective WR in This league.

I'm not in a position to judge DA's injury impact but we should give Indy some credit being one of the top Pass Defenses in the League.

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Coldworld's picture

November 23, 2020 at 05:40 pm

There was a time when you said what you do now about MVS about Adams who arguably cost us a game against the Bears. The thing about development is it brings consistency.

Lazard was a decoy and blocker, I guess some value in that. MVS, Taylor and Shepherd have blocked pretty well, but on the last play, Lazard and Tonyan both whiffed. Go figure. Perhaps you are right that he should have been held back.

Unrelated, I’d dearly like to know why Winn makes an impact on a few snaps and then never sees the field. Seems to be the case every time he is active. But then again, Gary is our best edge defender but gets far less snaps than the Smiths. Pettine is baffling, MVS is promising.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:43 am

I agree on Adams, MVS, Lazard, and Winn. Now Preston and Gary.

Preston Smith is a competent off the ball coverage OLBer. He has a 7.07 three cone so he has good agility regardless of size. He allowed passer ratings of 42.4 in 2018 and 56.2 in 2019. Going into the Colts game Preston was having (for him) a bad year in coverage, allowing an 82 passer rating, but just a 5.5 yards/target average. Now it has been updated. Giving up the TD is big, and he is now allowing a 113 passer rating and his yards/target jumped from 5.5 to 6.7 yards/target.

Preston drops into coverage about 7 to 9 times per game. Maybe GB should never drop an OLB into coverage. If you play Z and Gary together at OLB, that's what you'll get. Kirksey is allowing a passer rating of 116, Barnes 130.8, and Martin allows 94.8. Eric Kendricks allowed 83 in his pro bowl season and 68 in his very fine so far year in 2020. Anthony Barr allowed 130 and 101.5 in 2018 and '19. IDK. Chicago doesn't have Quinn or Floyd drop into coverage, and Mack only as a surprise once in a while. So, in a 3-4, OLBs don't have to drop into coverage, you can have the ILBs do it, but Roquan Smith and Trevathan play 100% and 78% of snaps, respectively. Our ILBs don't do that unless you count Greene + Martin + Barnes and Summers? They played 79% of snaps, Kirksey 100%, so Chicago manages not to drop OLBs, why can't GB?

The problem with playing Gary and Z is that they are DEs.

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cow7's picture

November 23, 2020 at 08:39 pm

"This team has more talent than the 2019 team."

Huh?

There is not a single new player on the roster who is doing or has done or will do anything of significance this entire season.

It's the exact same team.

That's the problem.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 24, 2020 at 05:20 am

I’m not going to go 10 rounds with you, Bovine. But I will say one thing: the first contract guys ARE stepping up. They’re mostly better than they were in 2019. Some much better. And that’s making a difference with the team quality.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:01 am

I thought you hit the road cow7? Not yet?

In hurry, please...

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Guam's picture

November 23, 2020 at 04:28 pm

I do not know if it is MLF's play calling or the player's execution, but it absolutely drives me nuts that the Packers have been unable to convert 3rd or 4th and one all season. Good teams must be able to convert short yardage plays and keep drives going.

Most teams are able to just pound it and get one yard. The Packers normally have two big backs available (only one yesterday) and an all-pro left tackle as well as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and we can't run the damn ball for one yard when we need it. Instead we get a fancy, low percentage wheel route to our 220 pound running back that our HOF QB over throws.

If I were MLF (and maybe this is my Lombardi era mindset kicking in), I would line the offense up for the entire padded practice next week and make them execute one yard runs until they were sick of it. They must execute that simple play to be regarded as a good team.

Sorry, rant over. I'll be better soon.......

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TarynsEyes's picture

November 23, 2020 at 05:17 pm

The run game is only as good as the short yardage success and to get one yard even when the defense knows you're coming. GB is a fail.

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Since'61's picture

November 23, 2020 at 10:21 pm

First I make them watch tape of Lombardi’s OL and then I make them practice until they get it right! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Coldworld's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:38 am

Lombardi had an O line that opened holes. Ours hasn’t done a great job of that in games where we have struggled to run. That shows up in our short yardage limitations acutely. In addition we lack a true lead blocker and haven’t used a power back, Finally, Ervin seems to be key to outside zone runs and we seem unable to find a backup.

I think it’s legitimate to say that LaFleur hasn’t resolved the questions Raiders by this part of the game.

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Since'61's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:24 pm

The key was how they came off the snap as one unit. They almost never misssd their blocks. Poetry in motion.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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badaxed's picture

November 23, 2020 at 10:23 pm

Lol,lol,lol, practise one yard runs, lol lol. The NFL DOES NOT PRACTISE BLOCKING OR TACKLEING ANYMORE. Divas run around in warmups before going inside for lattes. Practise today consists of film study and tackleing donuts (both rubber &
jelly filled). Lombardi would puke!

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Since'61's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:26 pm

I agree about the current practice protocols but the fact is that other teams make those short yardage first downs. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

November 23, 2020 at 04:54 pm

I can't believe they didn't kick a field goal. How could they be this dumb?

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Lphill's picture

November 23, 2020 at 05:15 pm

This is what happens when you can't buy a yard.

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Swisch's picture

November 23, 2020 at 07:57 pm

Early in the game, there was a third-and-short play during which it seems players were in motion in all directions before and after the snap to keep the defense guessing -- with Rodgers rolling to his left with Tonyan as a possible receiver going in the same direction, and the result being that Rodgers loped along for an easy first down and got to the sidelines without taking a hit.
In general, some more roll outs for Rodgers may be a way of keeping the defense guessing a little more.
Remember that wildcard game in about 1994 against the Lions, with the Packers down late, when Favre rolled left and then threw across his body deep to Sharpe streaking down the right sideline for an amazing touchdown, Maybe we keep a play like that for the playoffs.

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UGDR's picture

November 23, 2020 at 09:25 pm

Seriously wondering if Aaron Rodgers contract has a no sneak claus. Regardless of the coach over the years Rodgers and said coach has to go and pull the "we're the smartest guy in the room" and run this crap mentioned in this article amongst some other craptastic play calls.. Meanwhile across the leauge 70% of QB sneaks have gone for first downs this season. Get over yourselves and sneak the f-in ball for the f-in first down once in while!

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Coldworld's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:39 am

He ran a sneak in a previous game

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LambeauPlain's picture

November 24, 2020 at 10:13 am

I actually would have shown pass formation with #12 in the gun. Then just before the snap run up to Center for the snap and sneak. I have seen this done several times over the years and it almost always works.

Linsley out with a bad back may have changed ML's thinking...but come on! Jenks is their next best plough horse and Rodgers taking the snap and sneaking behind him will get you a yard 90% of the time.

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Ernesto's picture

November 23, 2020 at 09:32 pm

I only saw the last couple minutes, after the Vikes loss. This game was clearly lost by Rodgers. You've got 17 secs on the clock, ball on the ten and you piss away 8 secs calling a play which is going to be a thrown to Adams in the corner. He never checked off to see a wide open easy pass to the right end but threw a hopeless lob out of bounds.
Someone needs to tell Rodgers when your taking your time it's your clock that's running down. We had time for two plays to the end zone and did only one bad one.
That was your game.

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Since'61's picture

November 23, 2020 at 10:11 pm

Tonyan did not come open until Rodgers released the pass to Adams. What you are seeing in the reply is the Colts DBs reacting to the ball being thrown to the other side of the end zone. Thanks, Since ‘61

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gkarl's picture

November 24, 2020 at 09:06 am

Adams was never open on that play, it had next to no chance of being completed. Granted Tonyan appeared more open after the throw but he still was a better choice to be open than Adams was, AR just never looked that way.

As many say, as goes AR so go the GBP. For as much as he like to hold the ball to let plays develop he failed this time because he gets to locked on to Adams on occasion.

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Since'61's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:21 pm

The play was designed to go to Adams. Rodgers read that Tonyan was double covered on the play so he went to Adams who he knew had one-on- one. Adams was well covered on the play so Rodgers tried to throw to a spot where only Adams could make the catch.
Credit to the Colts defense. Thanks, Since ‘61

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badaxed's picture

November 23, 2020 at 10:37 pm

Rodgers is the worst clock management qb in football. Does not hike the ball until 1 or 0 seconds left giving the defense the exact time when the ball is going to be hiked putting his offensive lineman at a disadvantage. Any time the defense knows exactly when the ball is going to be hiked they can tee off on the offense. No wonder Rodgers pocket collapses sooner. He does not give his line a chance even when the time clock police (Baktari) keeps reminding him, he ignores him. After all mr diva maybee can get the other team to jump. Does the head coach not know this or does diva Rodgers ignore everyone.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:38 am

Put your guy, Boyle in then and look for L s

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jlc1's picture

November 24, 2020 at 10:07 am

Defenses try to hide what they are doing. QB's try to make them show it and waiting can do that, just like motion can. I'm pretty sure Arod is not doing it to piss people off but rather to give the entire O, not just the O line, the advantage.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:54 am

It was 3rd down. If the play fails to score a TD, GB is using 4th down to kick the field goal.

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Since'61's picture

November 23, 2020 at 10:19 pm

On that 4th and 1 play I would have called a QB rollout and give Rodgers the choice to either throw for the 1st down or to run for it himself.

Actually, I would have kicked the FG, but once the decision is made to go for it I would give my best player (Rodgers) the opportunity to make the play with either his arm or his legs.

Leaving him in the pocket with no one open was a poor decision.

That decision shows no confidence in our OL or our RBs and doesn’t say much for our defense either. Tie the game. Kick off into the end zone. Make a stop. Get the ball back. Kick another FG. Game over. Go home. MLF outsmarts himself sometimes and Pettine just doesn’t know what he’s doing with the defense. WTF??? Thanks, Since ‘61

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Guam's picture

November 23, 2020 at 10:43 pm

Couldn't agree more that MLF sometimes outsmarts himself with his play calling. There are times when you just have to be tougher than the other guy and prove it.

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Fabio's picture

November 24, 2020 at 09:12 am

I keep thinking about the time out thrown to change the call for Sheperd's mistake on the return
Greetings from Siena (Italy)

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flackcatcher's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:44 pm

These are the times when MLF inexperience shows up. His learning the hard way is painful for us. I'm fine with Pettine, the defense put this team in position to win. (Z Smith and the non strip of Rivers. I'm sorry, if that is not a fumble...) The Colts HC is one of the real good one in this league, and we all know how good Rivers is. They fought a good offense to a standstill and gave their offense a chance in an away game. That is all a fan can ask for. (Well maybe stop TURNING THE DAMN BALL OVER)

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JohnnyLogan's picture

November 24, 2020 at 12:28 am

Both MLF and Pettine outsmart themselves. How about simply playing fundamentally sound football, no bells and whistles? Need a yard?... QB sneak or give it to your 220 lb back behind your All-Pro tackle? Other team needs eight yards?... don't line up 12 yards back, give them an easy six-yard completion and then miss tackles for the extra yards? How about not having a 265 lb. DE in pass coverage 25 yards downfield. And why is Dean Lowry still starting? MLF has shown he knows how to coach when even or ahead with the clock on his side. He hasn't shown the same ability when behind and needs to save time on the clock. Rodgers has the ability, he's simply limited in weapons that other top QB's have.

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Booner's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:44 am

Le Fail wasn't at his best with his decision making or play calling! Lets start spreading the ball around the yard! Quit looking for Adams every F____ing play! We will have to outscore teams this year to win because we can't stop a nose bleed with this soft defense!

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a6spot's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:32 pm

Don't agree with the fourth down call in general but in particular it appeared that ARod panicked and threw a floater when he could have extended the play. He was being rushed by a D lineman and I still think his wheels are good enough to evade him.

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Since'61's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:41 pm

That’s why as I posted above I like the QB rollout in that spot.
Rodgers would be on the move, then the LB who covered Williams needs to step up to stop Rodgers from running for the 1st down. When he comes off Williams, Rodgers stops and makes an easy throw to an open Williams for the first down.

It was a good call except for the fact that Rodgers wasn’t moving on the play. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Fabio's picture

November 25, 2020 at 07:58 am

Sorry but in my opinion the decisive play of the race, in addition to the absurd call on the Z fumble, is the 3rd and 19th at 02:04 from the end of the 4th quarter where the Colts, incredibly with a running game, arrived At 4 yards and then they converted the 4th down. There was still 01:58 on the clock and it cost us 2 time outs and 30 seconds of play ... everything we missed in the last drive !!!

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